Ana Veciana-Suarez

With Zika virus spreading, partisan Congress has left us in the lurch — again

Dear Congress,

Thanks a lot, chumps.

Thanks for being so irresponsible. Thanks for failing to do your job. Thanks for leaving your constituents — and not just those of us who live in Miami — in the lurch. Apparently you believe your vacation is more important than public health. More important than my grandchildren. More important than my pregnant sister.

Couldn’t you, for once, put the public’s interest ahead of your own? Couldn’t you think of young women first? Of the possibility of babies born with severe birth defects? Of the eventual expense such a catastrophe might cost?

Maybe that’s too much to ask from elected officials who are regarded as self-absorbed, power-hungry, what’s-in-it-for-me partisans who can’t negotiate themselves out of a brown paper bag. No wonder your approval rating is so dismal. In the latest Gallup Poll, 83 percent of us gave you a thumbs-down, and that was before American-hatched mosquitoes began infecting us.

While the number of people with the Zika virus continues to climb, you, Congress, have pulled a Nero. As in the Roman emperor fiddling while Rome burned.

You, Congress, left for your seven-week summer recess without approving President Barack Obama’s request for $1.9 billion in emergency Zika funding. Why? Because of the usual D.C. dysfunction. The Republican side balked at the idea of adding all that money to the deficit and asked the administration to repurpose unused funds from the Ebola fight. Democrats, in turn, walked away because attachments to the bill also cut Affordable Care Act financing, rescinded a ban on flying the Confederate flag in federal cemeteries, and diminished Planned Parenthood’s role in providing services to fight sexual transmission of Zika.

By the time you return in early September, the damage will have been done. In case you fools didn’t know it, the period between August and early September is the peak of Miami’s mosquito season, when mosquito-borne viruses are most likely to spread. Or as Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine told the McClatchy Washington Bureau, “it’ll be really too late to have much impact.”

Thank goodness others are stepping up to the plate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent an emergency team our way. Miami-Dade has increased inspections and spraying, and some cities are hiring their own teams. Local mayors walked around the one-square-mile “ground zero” area north of downtown Miami — our beloved Wynwood — in a show of support. And Florida Senators Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, have asked Congress to return to Washington.

This kind of nudge from colleagues has done nothing to improve the funding situation, however, and as a result one of the world’s best public health systems is stymied by your infantile politics, held hostage by pretend grown-ups who have taken the ball home rather than play. Sadly, I’m not surprised. As a collective body, you’re a disappointment.

Your history of failures is long and appalling. I’m thinking of the government shutdowns during the 1970s and ’80s, but most notably the disastrous one at the end of 1995, and the 2013 debacle, and the near-hit of 2015. Five years ago, alarmed by the political brinksmanship, Standard & Poor’s downgraded our credit rating — the first time in the country’s history. You’ve also been unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform and reasonable gun legislation.

No wonder we, the electorate, are disillusioned and frustrated, and angry. You’re an embarrassment. And now you’re putting people I love in danger. Shame, shame, shame.

A voter

Ana Veciana-Suarez: 305-376-3633, aveciana-suarez@miamiherald.com, @AnaVeciana

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